by Moshe Feiglin
As expected, the Grocery Law, prohibiting groceries from opening on Shabbat unless the local municipality legislates otherwise, has brought about a backlash of municipal legislation allowing the opening of businesses on Shabbat. In other words, Interior Minister Deri’s bill has harmed the Jewish identity of the State of Israel. The State apparatus must be distanced from religious issues. Not only to enhance personal liberty, but also to allow Israel’s Jewish identity to develop without coercion.
In an interview on Israel’s Channel 2 KAN radio late Monday, I said that attempts by the State and its law enforcement capabilities to fashion Israel’s Jewish identity produce just the opposite. For example, there is state enforcement of the Jewish laws of marriage, so to circumvent that, couples fly to Cyprus to marry. Another example is the law that prohibits the sale of chametz on Pesach. In practice, many establishments openly sell chametz on Pesach and nobody bothers them.
On the other hand, 99.9% of Israel’s Jewish citizens circumcise their sons, although there is no law enforcing this. Because where there is no enforcement, our Torah slowly but surely becomes our culture. When it is culture, and not enforced law, it develops and is accepted on a deep level. We must strive for this situation. We must remove the State and its law enforcement apparatus from the development of Israel’s identity and culture.
If open businesses on Shabbat will become the norm, it will first and foremost hurt people with lower incomes, who will find themselves not being hired unless they agree to work on Shabbat. When we replace open dialogue between different sectors of society with coercion, we get the complete opposite.
In order to have a solid Jewish identity, we must rely on this Nation, on our society, on our community structure, on people who know what is and what is not good for their surroundings. I am convinced that this will lead to the positive development of Israel’s Jewish identity. If we continue to legislate Jewish identity, all that we will be left with is sour milk.